So, what's a parent hack? It's any tip, workaround, or bit of wisdom that makes your life as a parent a little easier. It can be as simple as putting the ketchup under your toddler's hot dog to minimize the mess; trapping your baby into a forward-facing carrier when you need to trim her fingernails; or stashing your wallet and keys in a clean disposable diaper at the beach, because who would ever poke through what looks like a used diaper?
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And when is the time you need hacks the most? The crazy toddler years! Those little tots are balls of energy constantly on the go, and sometimes the only way to keep up with them is to tweak how you do this or how you manage that. Here are some of my favorite tips for taking care of toddlers that I've featured on my site Parent Hacks and will be listed in my new book "Parent Hacks: 134 Genius Shortcuts for Life With Kids." I hope they help!
Place a rolled-up towel or a pool noodle under the fitted sheet on the edge of the bed to keep your little one from rolling out.
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2. Screen time
Limit TV time by starting shows in the middle. Most toddlers aren't really into the plotlines anyway!
Active toddlers need more mealtime coverage than a small bib provides. Slip a large T-shirt over your kid's clothes as a washable smock. Peel it off when the meal's over and wash it as usual, or if you're on the go, seal it in a Ziploc bag to wash later.
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4. On the go
When your tot begs to be carried short distances despite being capable of walking, try this game recommended by Parent Hacks reader Cyd: have her pretend to push you up the street. She'll have so much fun she won't mind walking.
5. Dining out
Keep your toddler entertained in the coffee shop by turning cardboard cup sleeves into "superhero arm cuffs" or "spy goggles."
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Give your toddler a damp microfiber cloth and let him dust and wipe down surfaces. "Chore practice" may not get things perfectly clean, but it makes him feel involved in household jobs and sets him up for more responsibilities as he grows.
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7. Potty Training
Toilet paper rolls can be hard for toddlers to handle. Follow Parent Hacks reader Monique's advice and keep a box of pop-up tissues near the potty so toddlers can grab one piece at a time.
To minimize his kid's repeated requests to buy a toy while shopping, Parent Hacks reader Darryl suggested they instead take a picture of it and "email it to Santa." His daughter was happy; the items stayed on the shelves; and Darryl now has a phone full of future gift ideas.
9. Toy maintenance
If your toddler's play has left her doll's hair looking frizzy and messy, simply wet it, work in a small amount of regular hair conditioner, gently comb through it to detangle, rinse, and let it air dry.
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Keep toy cars and small stuffed animals visible but tidy by storing them in the clear pockets of a hanging shoe organizer on the back of your child's bedroom door.
Excerpted from Parent Hacks®:134 Genius Shortcuts for Life with Kids by Asha Dornfest (Workman Publishing). Copyright © 2016. Illustrations © Craighton Berman.
Asha Dornfest is the author of "Parent Hacks: 134 Genius Shortcuts for Life With Kids" and the voice behind the award-winning blog ParentHacks.com. You can follow her on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. Asha's work has been featured in the Wall Street Journal, Real Simple, Family Circle, Parents, Parenting, and more. She's appeared on national television shows and radio broadcasts, including CNN, ABC News Now and the Ronn Owens Show. Asha has also spoken about writing, entrepreneurship, and online community building at SXSW, BlogHer, Mom 2.0 Summit, and TechFest NW.